Wednesday 5 November 2014

Holy Family

There was a time in the past where a family usually consisted of a father, a mother, some children (people in those days used to have many children), and possibly extended family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and other members. Many such families lived in one big house, which we used to call ancestral homes, since several generations lived in them. As the years went by, some members may leave to look for a better life elsewhere, and would return whenever possible to celebrate important events such as Chinese New Year, Christmas, or a birthday, or perhaps the birth of a new member. In those days, this may have been a "usual" or "normal" setup of a family.

Situations change, people move on, cost of living has escalated, and people become more and more anxious about finding better work as well as better living opportunities elsewhere. This has resulted in families dispersing and living in smaller setups. Rarely do we see or hear of families staying in one big house any more. Even such big houses have become rare, as many have been sold and demolished to make way for development.

As people struggle to make ends meet, the relationship between husband and wife, with the children, and even with extended family members may become strained. People begin to concentrate on their careers more and more, sometimes at the expense of family time and proper care of the children. We begin to see more and more families disintegrating or breaking up, divorces happening at an alarming rate, and the number of single parents arising due to one reason or another. The family, it appears, may have become more and more dysfunctional or "abnormal", in contrast with what was "normal" in the past. As a Christian family, what do we do about this situation that some may be in?

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. When we look at the Holy Family, we can discover that the Holy Family does not quite seem to fit what a normal family is perceived to be. Joseph was not Jesus' real father, though he was married to Mary. Mary conceived Jesus in an extraordinary way, not quite the way a woman usually conceived. Mary appears to have been widowed at a young age as there is no longer any mention of Joseph after the first few chapters of the Gospel. Mary may have been a single mother who had to single-handedly raise Jesus all on her own. All these make the Holy Family appear to be "abnormal."

But though the Holy Family appeared to be "abnormal," the Holy Family also gives us a picture of hope and a model to look to. Why is this so? The Holy Family shows us what it means to put our trust and dependence in God, and to put God in the centre of our lives. Joseph put his trust in God and married Mary, even though she was with child and the child was not his as the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Mary put her trust and confidence in God when she said: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me." If God is at the centre of our family life, then no matter how big or difficult the problem may be, no matter how serious the hurts one experiences, no matter how distant people have become due to one reason or another, God has overcome all because he has been through it all in the person of Jesus.

Today, we give thanks to God for the many families around us. Each family is a precious gift of God, and must never be taken for granted. Let us offer each family to God, and as one big family of God, strive to bring His message of love and peace to all.

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